“One cannot count the moons that shimmer on her roofs/or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” Saib-e-Tabrizi
Two films focusing on the travails of American soldiers and their interpreters in the unchartered, explosive, terrifyingly beautiful landscape of Afghanistan. There is keen edification in both films but Guy Ritchie’s “Covenant” is a more intimate, accurate dissection of the dependency, bond between a soldier and the one responsible for keeping him alive; death defines their days and actor Jake Gyllenhaal imbues “Master Sergeant John Kinley” with gifted grit; a favored actor, who with intense sublimity, cloaks all his characterizations: “Brokeback Mountain”, “Nightcrawler”, “Southpaw”; my personal favorite, minimally viewed, “Nocturnal Animals” with Amy Adams. In “The Covenant” he is paired with instinctive prognostication with Dar Salim as “Ahmed”, a pulverizing, career-defining, performance. Emotionally demanding, intellectually satisfying, “The Covenant” reinforces man’s unsigned contract, pledge, to honor his “covenant” to another man.
Admittedly, actor Gerard Butler is a Brand, but a “Brand” that keeps on giving; his role selection, always prodigious, never tedious; he is perpetually “saving the day” and from a viewer’s perspective, comforting knowing he will live to slay another adversary. Director Ric Roman Waugh has Butler, a CIA agent“Tom Harris”, fleeing with his interpreter “Mo” (an empathetic Navid Negahban) from Iranians, Pakistani agents and the Taliban, lending unrealistic, problematic escapes but cinematographically impressive; written by a former military intelligence officer (Mitchell LaFortune); filmed in Saudi Arabia; a surprise tidbit is the Bollywood actor Elnaaz Norouzi depicting, with finesse, a kidnapped journalist.
“Kandahar” fulfills its mission with its predictable, scripted Hollywood agenda.